China cracks down on texting

People in China might reconsider next time they decide to engage in “sexting.”

According to the government-owned newspaper China Daily, authorities will now be monitoring text messages.

Mobile phone companies such as China Mobile and China Unicom have been ordered by Beijing to be on the lookout for “unhealthy” words and phrases.

Although there is no official statement on what language is deemed unhealthy, China Mobile stated that it is required to flag any inferences to pornography, violence, fraud, terrorism, instigations to crime and gambling.

China’s other state-run media outlet, Xinhau News, reports that the government is pursuing a nationwide crackdown on sexually explicit text messages, including “expressed or obscure sexual behavior,” “teasing or insulting behavior,” “descriptions of some specific parts of the body” and anything “that could provoke people’s imagination about sex.”

The exact repercussions for being caught sending such messages remain ambiguous, but they range from suspending the ability to send text messages to permanently disabling the phone number.

China Mobile has reported that if an unhealthy message is detected, the company must immediately disable the text-messaging feature and send a report to the authorities.
The mobile provider must wait to hear back from the police before they can re-activate the instant messaging feature again.

There are many concerns over this new policy.

The 700 million cell phone users in China are increasingly worried about getting in trouble for sending a harmless dirty joke or sending sexually implicit text messages to their spouses. Many users feel that their privacy has been violated.

Different network providers have reported different orders from the government, with some saying they are only targeting mass spam instant messaging, while others say that the policies apply equally to personal text messaging.

The Chinese Constitution guarantees freedom of correspondence with the exception of criminal behavior. Monitoring text messaging is part of the government’s campaign to censor the Internet, as many use their mobile devices to access the Internet.

Chinese efforts to censor communications have encountered some difficulty this year. In January, Google announced that it will not hand over the content of personal e-mail accounts to government officials and threatened to withdraw its Chinese search engine.